Photo of the Week: Fairy Tale Castle in the Fog
This fairy tale photograph looks like it might have been taken at Disneyland, but this pic is of the very real Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany. The prototypical fortress was captured by Atlas user Andie who had this to say about the magical view:

"Most photos of Neuschwanstein look light and Disney-esque, but the fog and changing leaves during my visit seemed to highlight the dual nature of the castle: whimsically beautiful and yet forever tainted by accusations of madness and suspicious deaths.”


Photo of the Week: Fairy Tale Castle in the Fog

This fairy tale photograph looks like it might have been taken at Disneyland, but this pic is of the very real Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany. The prototypical fortress was captured by Atlas user Andie who had this to say about the magical view:

"Most photos of Neuschwanstein look light and Disney-esque, but the fog and changing leaves during my visit seemed to highlight the dual nature of the castle: whimsically beautiful and yet forever tainted by accusations of madness and suspicious deaths.”



Physiology of Tattoos

First, a quick history:

Tattooing (permanently marking the skin with pigment) is an ancient tradition, going back thousands of years. Many traditional cultures - from the Picts of Scotland, to the Fulani of Nigeria, the Ainu of Japan, the Maori of New Zealand, the Scythians of Central Asia, and even the culture that Ötzi the Iceman belonged to - used tattoos in either a symbolic way (as an identification or status symbol) or as a form of traditional healing and protection from evil spirits or disease.

Though tattoos have also been used as forms of permanent demarcation of a crime (such as burglary or military desertion), the people of Europe rediscovered a fascination with the artform after many of Captain Cook’s men returned to their home port in 1770, newly tattooed by the Tahitian natives they had encountered in their voyages.

Associated with mariners, lower, and criminal classes for much of the time between the return of Cook’s crew and the 1960s, European gentry went through a phase of great interest in the practice between the 1870s and very early 1900s. As it was both expensive and painful to receive what was considered a high-quality tattoo, it was a sign of wealth and toughness, and in 1898, Harmsworth Magazine estimated that 1 in 5 members of the gentry had at least one tattoo.

Today, though still considered taboo by some, tattoos are not uncommon or (generally) considered a sign of “criminality”. Not that there isn’t discrimination against the tattooed - there definitely is - but it is not what it used to be. Janis Joplin displaying her wristlet tattoo without shame is often considered one of the major turning points for tattoo acceptance in popular culture and Western society. Many people of various ethnic origins have also begun to “reclaim” their heritage and revitalize their previously-suppressed traditional culture, by getting the tattoos that their ancestors wore proudly.



Tattoos are actually not that complicated! I used to wonder why they didn’t disappear over time (at least not totally), given that every 10 years, every single cell in your body outside of your brain has been replaced at least once.

As it turns out, tattoos create their own little place under your skin. When they’re first applied, the ink is injected into the epidermis and upper dermis, and the body does not like that. Phagocytes flock to the site of the tattoo, and eject the foreign substance from the epidermis - this is what causes the flaking and scabbing over the first couple weeks after a tattoo - and engulf the ink injected into the dermis. As the ink in the dermis is too far down to easily eject, it’s engulfed in a granulation (healing) layer, which turns into connective tissue.

Eventually, the pigment is trapped in fibroblasts, in a discrete layer created between the upper dermis and the epidermis. Fibroblasts, like scar tissue, do not regenerate like regular cells, and tend to stay in one place for an entire lifetime. Some upper dermis layers may form on top of the fibroblasts, leading to fading of the tattoo, but they never completely disappear if they were done in a fashion that created the proper healing conditions.

Laser removal of tattoos currently involves utilizing certain wavelengths of light to shine through the epidermis and break up each pigment shade into particles that are small enough for the body to eject during the normal healing process (initiated by the damage caused by the laser). Previous methods of tattoo removal included dermabrasion, cryobrasion, chemabrasion, and complete excision - all of which either destroyed the epidermis and then the tattoo itself, or which cut out the tattoo entirely. All of those methods tended to produce a significant degree of scar tissue. While some scarring is common with current laser removal, it is nowhere near as extreme as previous methods.

Read More:

Tattooed: The Sociogenesis of a Body Art. Michael Atkinson, 1971.

"Skin Stories: The Art and Culture of Polynesian Tattoo". Pacific Islanders in Communication for PBS Studios, 2003.

Skin and Bones: Tattoos in the Life of the American Sailor. 2011 Exhibit at Independence Seaport Museum


Tattooed Maori Chief, 1784. From Captain Cook’s first voyage in 1769.

Adult Maori Female, 1890. Portrait by Bohumír Gottfried Lindaur.

"A marriagable girl", 1912. From The Melanesians of British New Guinea, by George Brown.

Kayan (Borneo) Tattoo, 1912. From Customs of the World, photographed by W. H. Furness III.

Mrs. M. Stevens Wagner, Half Length, 1907. One of the first “Tattooed Ladies” who performed as a circus “sideshow freak”.

Ainu woman with traditional tattoo, ca. 1880. “Ainu: Forgotten Indigenous People of Japan.”, 2013.

"Betto, or Groom", ca. 1880. Yamato Japanese man with hair in topknot. Attributed to Adolfo Farsari.

Norman T. Collins, aka Sailor Jerry, ca 1950. Note the heavy Japanese influence in the works of one of the most iconic tattoo artists in history.



The Surprising History of the Lobotomy

Today, the word “lobotomy” is rarely mentioned. If it is, it’s usually the butt of a joke.

But in the 20th century, a lobotomy became a legitimate alternative treatment for serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia and severe depression. Physicians even used it to treat chronic or severe pain and backaches. (As you’ll learn below, in some cases, there was no compelling reason for the surgery at all.) There’s a surprising history of the lobotomy for its use in mental health.

A lobotomy wasn’t some primitive procedure of the early 1900s. In fact, an article in Wired magazine states that lobotomies were performed “well into the 1980s” in the “United States, Britain, Scandinavia and several western European countries.”

The Beginning

In 1935, Portuguese neurologist Antonio Egas Moniz performed a brain operation he called “leucotomy” in a Lisbon hospital. This was the first-ever modern leucotomy to treat mental illness, which involved drilling holes in his patient’s skull to access the brain. For this work, Moniz received the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1949.

The idea that mental health could be improved by psychosurgery originated from Swiss neurologist Gottlieb Burckhardt. He operated on six patients with schizophrenia and reported a 50 percent success rate, meaning the patients appeared to calm down. Interestingly, Burckhardt’s colleagues harshly criticized his work at the time.

The Lobotomy in America

In 1936, psychiatrist Walter Freeman and another neurosurgeon performed the first U.S. prefrontal lobotomy on a Kansas housewife. (Freeman renamed it “lobotomy.”)

Freeman believed that an overload of emotions led to mental illness and “that cutting certain nerves in the brain could eliminate excess emotion and stabilize a personality,” according to a National Public Radio article.

He wanted to find a more efficient way to perform the procedure without drilling into a person’s head like Moniz did. So he created the 10-minute transorbital lobotomy (known as the “ice-pick” lobotomy), which was first performed at his Washington, D.C. office on January 17, 1946.

(Freeman would go on to perform about 2,500 lobotomies. Known as a showman, he once performed 25 lobotomies in one day. To shock his audiences, he also liked to insert picks in both eyes simultaneously.)

According to the NPR article, the procedure went as follows:

“As those who watched the procedure described it, a patient would be rendered unconscious by electroshock. Freeman would then take a sharp ice pick-like instrument, insert it above the patient’s eyeball through the orbit of the eye, into the frontal lobes of the brain, moving the instrument back and forth. Then he would do the same thing on the other side of the face.”

Freeman’s ice-pick lobotomy became wildly popular. The main reason is that people were desperate for treatments for serious mental illness. This was a time before antipsychotic medication, and mental asylums were overcrowded, Dr. Elliot Valenstein, author of Great and Desperate Cures, which recounts the history of lobotomies, told NPR.

“There were some very unpleasant results, very tragic results and some excellent results and a lot in between,” he said.

Lobotomies weren’t just for adults either. One of the youngest patients was a 12-year-old boy! NPR interviewed Howard Dully in 2006 at the age of 56. At the time, he was working as a bus driver.

Dully told NPR:

“If you saw me you’d never know I’d had a lobotomy,” Dully says. “The only thing you’d notice is that I’m very tall and weigh about 350 pounds. But I’ve always felt different — wondered if something’s missing from my soul. I have no memory of the operation, and never had the courage to ask my family about it…”

The reason for Dully’s lobotomy? His stepmother, Lou, said Dully was defiant, daydreamed and even objected to going to bed. If this sounds like a typical 12-year-old boy, that’s because he was. According to Dully’s father, Lou took her stepson to several doctors, who said there was nothing wrong with Dully, and he was just “a normal boy.”

But Freeman agreed to perform the lobotomy. You can check out the NPR article for Freeman’s notes on Dully and more from his patients’ families. (There’s also lots more on lobotomies on their website.)

The End

In 1967, Freeman performed his last lobotomy before being banned from operating. Why the ban? After he performed the third lobotomy on a longtime patient of his, she developed a brain hemorrhage and passed away.

The U.S. performed more lobotomies than any other country, according to the Wired article. Sources vary on the exact number but it’s between 40,000 and 50,000 (the majority taking place between the late 1940s and early 1950s).

Curiously, as early as the 1950s, some nations, including Germany and Japan, had outlawed lobotomies. The Soviet Union prohibited the procedure in 1950, stating that it was “contrary to the principles of humanity.” (How ironic.)

[T]he long story is that a friend of mine from way back in high school and college had a habit of using first names as adjectives and verbs, depending on how the name sounded to him. Some of these were Hank (which meant “to bumble, botch, manhandle or damage” as in “aw, you hanked my copy of Spiderman #121”), Dean (which meant “nerdy or overly and uselessly complicated in a geeky way”—think gadgets—he would call the retractable handles on his briefcase “the dean handles”), and Mel (“a loser” as in “that guy’s such a mel.”). There were others I can’t remember right now. I named the boys Hank and Dean as a private nod to this friend (I think their original names in my first sketches were Lunk and Dale).
Jackson Publick on the origin of Hank’s and Dean’s names (via vhs-banshee)